The Roots of Christian Mysticism

Third Term

Stefan G Reynolds

The story of how meditation was rediscovered within the Christian tradition as a form of contemplative prayer and how it is practiced by many Christians around the world.



This course teaches you how to meditate and helps you to establish it as a regular practice. It also tells the story of how meditation was rediscovered within the Christian tradition as a form of contemplative prayer and how it is practiced by many Christians around the world.


The course has 6 Lessons which has 3 topics each. Each lesson has a time for meditation so that the course is experiential and not just theoretical. The text introduces you to the topic with supplementary audio or video material. Going Further gives you practical suggestions to help your practice and self-awareness exercises for the week ahead. There is also some recommended reading. There is also opportunity to contact the Course Tutor who can guide you at any point.

The objective of the course is to introduce you to Christian Meditation as taught by John Main OSB and to help you establish it as a daily practice. This is the beginning of a journey – which we hope you will enjoy!


What you will discover in this course:


– Lesson 1

St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross

St Teresa of Avila founded thirteen convents, and inspired the foundation of a number of male monasteries, as well as becoming the abbess of her own original Carmelite house in Avila. Her main concern was to reform the Carmelite order by reviving contemplation and prayer. St John of the Cross served as confessor and spiritual director at the Convent where Teresa was abbess. His support of Teresa’s reform, however, got him into trouble with the authorities and he was imprisoned. In prison he composed the poems that became the basis of his writings on the contemplative life.

– Lesson 2

Ignatius of Loyola

Ignatius of Loyolas’ spirituality centered on the ability to discern the promptings of God while living outside of a regular monastery. His Spiritual Exercises foster a careful discernment of spirits so that one can make good choices in life. Finding God in the world is a fruit of the belief that God is not only in all things but is also active in bringing all to fulfilment. The Spiritual Exercises became a program of retreat for both Religious and Lay people to enable them to discern and align themselves to God’s unique call.

– Lesson 3

George Herbert and Thomas Traherne

In seventeenth century England there was a flourishing of Christian poetry with a mystical leaning. The poets George Herbert and Thomas Traherne are now known as the ‘metaphysical poets’ because of the dominant theme of the spiritual life in their verse. Herbert represents the purgative path, Traherne the illuminative and the unitive. Together they say much about what it is to be human and yet to share in the Divine.

– Lesson 4

Etty Hillesum

Etty Hillesum was a mystic outside of any particular faith. Among other twentieth century mystics she represents a turn toward a ‘universal wisdom’ across faith traditions. Etty undertook the path of self-knowledge to discover the truth within. She discovered a depth to herself which she could only call God. Finding God in herself led immediately to finding the same God in others despite the fact that she was living in the horrifying times of the Second World War.

– Lesson 5

Simone Weil and Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Both Simone Weil and Dietrich Bonhoeffer were radical in their reappraisal of Christianity in the modern world. Both were creative thinkers and spoke of the need for a new kind of holiness that was not a separation from the world but a new identification with the world. The “character of the contemporary world” and the inspiration of grace impelled them toward a “mystic-prophetic spirituality-in-the-world”.
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– Lesson 6

Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton’s mysticism is deeply personal. There are so many sides to his character and interests, such that he has been called a postmodern mystic. He certainly saw mysticism as something connected to all aspects of life, as much about speaking out for justice as about contemplation and meditation, as much about learning to love our neighbour as about centering our life on God.

– Lesson 7

Abhishiktananda and Bede Griffiths

Abhishiktananda and Bede Griffith were pioneers in bringing together the mystical experience of India and of Christianity. Just as in the earlier centuries of Christianity new insights were gained through a careful use of Greek philosophy, so now a new deepening of Christian mysticism is occurring through the encounter with Eastern spirituality in all its forms. Abhishiktananda and Bede Griffiths were among the first prophets of this contemporary exchange.

– Lesson 8

John Main OSB

The Benedictine monk John Main revived a way of Christian prayer with a prayer word or phrase, which has its roots in the Gospel and was taught by the Desert Fathers and in The Cloud of Unknowing. He believed that meditation was a common ground between religions. His teaching on prayer is both practical and open, he offers a path which we can put to work in our daily lives.

What’s Included with the Course:


Expand your perspective by engaging in peer discussions around learning objectives, or start your own topic.


Search our global network of meditators and find local groups to support you in your spiritual journey.


Get access to our vast and ever-growing resource library to supplement your practice at every stage.

The Roots of Christian Mysticism

Third Term

Stefan G Reynolds

About Stefan G Reynolds

Dr Stefan Gillow Reynolds is Retreat Director at Mount Melleray Abbey in Ireland. He is a Benedictine Oblate of The World Community for Christian Meditation. He has a Theology Doctorate from London University and is the author of ‘Living with the Mind of Christ: Mindfulness in Christian Spirituality’ (DLT, 2016) and ‘The Wisdom of Love in the Song of Songs’ (Hikari, 2018).